The Tatler (1709-1711) and The Spectator (1711-1712)
The single-essay made its first appearance in The Tatler, which began publication in 1709. Created by Richard Steele, the purpose of The Tatler was to “offer something, whereby such worth members of the public may be instructed, after their reading, what to think..” and to “have something of which may be of entertainment to the fair sex..” (Tatler, April 12, 1709) Steele was the creator but other significant writers of the time, including Joseph Addison and Jonathan Swift, were also contributors. The Tatler was a single-sheet paper that came out three times a week and in the beginning, consisted of short paragraphs on topics related to domestic, foreign and financial events, literature, theater and gossip. Each topic fell under the heading of a specific place, such as a coffee house, where that discussion was most likely to take place. (Mackie 15) Isaac Bickerstaff, the sixty-something fictional editor, narrated The Tatler and his thoughts on miscellaneous subjects were included under the heading “From my own Apartment.” As The Tatler progressed, these popular entries began taking up more and more space until the first issue consisting of a single, “From my own Apartment” essay appeared on July 30, 1709. (DeMaria 534) In an attempt to appeal to his female audience, Steele introduced the character Jenny Distaff, Isaac Bickerstaff’s half sister, and she narrated some of the essays later in the periodical’s run. (Italia 37) The last issue of The Tatler appeared in January 1711 and by the following March, Steele launched a new periodical, The Spectator, with Joseph Addison. The Spectator was published daily and consisted of a single essay on a topic usually having to do with conduct or public behavior and contained no political news. The Spectator was narrated by the fictional persona, Mr. Spectator, with some help from the six members Spectator Club. While The Tatler introduced the form of the periodical...
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